« PreviousContinue »
LUKE xii. 23, 24.
Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be
faved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the Atrait gate; for many, I say
unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able: It would be well for the cause of genuine Christianity, if its professors would contentedly submit to that restraint, which its divine Au. thor has imposed upon a presumptuous curiosity. Such a spirit appears to have actuated the person, whose question is recorded in the text; and to have prompted him to seek for discoveries concerning the future condition of the human race. And the correction of such a spirit appears to have been the object of our Saviour's answer, when, instead of replying directly and explicitly to the enquiry, he diverted the attention of his disciples from an unnecessary and fruitless concern about the welfare of others, to the necessity of strenuous exertions for their own salvation. “ The question is,".
says Bishop Sherlock, “ Are there few that be “ saved ? The answer is in effect, What is that “ to you? Mind your own business, and strive “ to enter in at the strait gate *
Man however is eager to be wife above that which is written; and is not satisfied, unless he be permitted to know the fecret things of God. Not contented to be informed in general terms, that they, who strive to enter in at the ftrait gate, shall be admitted, and that they, who feek, without striving, fhall be excluded, he would fain infer a more mysterious doctrine from the admonition of our Lord. And because there are many, who shall not be able to enter in, notwithstanding their inability be specifically attributed to their own want of exertion, he concludes, that they are repelled from salvation by an absolute decree of the Almighty
Now the more prudent, and the more reverent course for a minister of the Gospel to adopt in general, is to conform to the restraint, virtually imposed by our Saviour's answer on this occasion ; and to abstain from a discussion of those subjects, which it has been the good pleasure of God to leave in obfcurity.
" It is our judgment," I adopt the sentiments, and express them in the language, of Episcopius
• Sherlock's Disc. vol. ii. p. 96.
and the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dort, where their forbearance and moderation did honour to the opinions they maintained: “ is our judgment, that those men think and si speak best and safest of those deep and diffi“ cult points of divinity, which far exceed out “ understandings, that is to say, of thë myste“ ries of religion, who treat of them cautiously • and moderately, and as much as poffible in “ the very words of Scriptute; being perfuad
ed, as the truth is, that men may tery easily “ be mistaken with respect to fuch deep and
impenetrable secrets, and that a small mil“ take in such weighty matters has often given “ occasion to great and manifeft errors Such, in earlier times, had been the practice of our own apoftolical reformers, who, both individually and collectively, avoided and difcouraged such doubtful disputations ; agrees ably to the memorable declaration of him, whom Fuller calls “ the profoundeft fcholar of " that army of martyrs', 66 the moft learned “ and judicious of all the prelates," as Heylyn styles himd; I mean Bifhop Ridley; who res plied to one, that desired to engage him in the question about God's election and predestina
Brandt's Hiftory of the Reformation in the Low Countries, vol. iii. p. 57.
Fuller's Church History, book viii. fect. 25. • Heylyn's Quinquart, Hist. part ii. chap viii. fe&t. 8.
tion, “ In these matters I am so fearful, that “ I dare not speak further, yea almost none “ otherwise, than the very text doth, as it
were, lead me by the hand.”
In these sentiments' we concur: and to this conduct we would cheerfully conform. When however these mysterious subjects are frequently, ostentatiously, and largely brought into discussion by others, who refuse to acquiesce in mutual forbearance ; when, in the progress of the discussion, the nature of the Christian dispensation appears to us to be grievously misrepresented; when erroneous notions of the terms of salvation appear to be infused into the hearers; when the glory of God appears to be affailed, and his attributes to be infringed, and his revelation to be calumniated ; when our doctrines withal, because we shrink from the public investigation of these mysterious topics, are broadly stigmatized as unevangelical, and made a foundation for the charge, that we are not preachers of the Gospel ; and when we cannot but perceive, that the minds of those committed to our care are thereby alienated from our teaching, that their respect is diminished for our persons, and that an obstacle is presented to our ministerial fuccess: we apprehend that the
Ridley's Life of Bishop Ridley, p. 553.
question then affumes a very different complexion; and we deem ourselves warranted by that solicitude, which, as ministers of Christ, we ought to feel for the purity of his word and for the salvation of the souls of his people, in attempting, however feebly, to stem the torrent of heresy and false doctrine ; and to illustrate, as far as we are enabled by that light, which the holy Scriptures supply, the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Having made these preliminary observations, as expressing my motives for venturing upon ground, which I approach with awe, and would otherwise leave untrodden; I shall immediately proceed to state, that if, when we are accused of corrupting and perverting the Gospel, it is intended, that the preaching of the generality of the national clergy does not agree
with the doctrines of the Gospel, as they are interpreted by those Christians, who inherit their name and their peculiar opinions from their founder Calvin, we are contented to plead guilty to the charge.
Such was the purport of the accusation in the hands of the Calvinistic establisher of Methodism, when he charged “ the generality “ of the clergy with hateful hypocrisy, in
speaking contrary to the Articles, and to the " form of found words delivered in the Scrip